October 26, 2008


The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

- Mt. 22: 40

In the case of law, behavior is the important thing. Was the law followed? If it was, that is enough. Doing the law is what counts. However, this overlooks the reason why we did it, & that affects the quality & effectiveness of what we do. Doing something because it is expected & doing something from the heart are two different things.

Unlike His opponents in today’s Gospel, Jesus is concerned about the inner state of the acting person. Mindless compliance with multiple laws makes one an outer person – conforming but not understanding.

The command to love God cannot be understood as long as we make the mistake of regarding the one that follows – “Love your neighbor” – as a separate command, nor if we confuse the word ‘Love’ with feeling instead of willing. We show the depth of our love for God in the depth of our love for one another, & that depth is not measured by warm feelings but whether or not we do what God asks of us. It matters not how often we offer words of praise & thanks & love to God. These words don’t mean a thing unless they are indicative of a change of heart toward our neighbor, & that doesn’t mean we have to like him or her.

This means that the first commandment is the most difficult one to keep – at least it has been for me. A group of clergymen had invited a famous advertising man to lecture them on ways & means of increasing Church attendance & instilling new vitality into their congregations. They hoped they would profit from this man’s knowledge of advertising & the media. But he shocked them. Without preliminaries, he began his presentation as follows:

“If God has forsaken you, what can a poor advertising man do for you? Do you no longer understand what actually gave that little group of the apostles on the day of Pentecost such tremendous power that it was sufficient to transform the face of the Western world? There was no advertising in the old sense. It was rather the influencing power of faith which accomplished the miracle.”

Then, later, these few closing sentences were equally devastating:

“Because you yourselves no longer feel the influencing power of faith within you, you try to substitute tactical cleverness for the faith of a strong soul. And when you do that, you sink ever deeper into the realm of no response.”

How deep into the realm of no response have we as a parish fallen? What are the full implications of what it means to love God? The answers to those questions, IF we can be brutally honest, can help to show us how shallow our faith in Jesus’ law of love really is. For, you see, there are no substitutes for the authentic Good News of our Lord’s Gospel.

Through the virginal womb of the baptismal font, we have been reborn in the image of our Creator. This means we are meant to be wholly like Him in innocence, simplicity, gentleness, patience, humility, mercy, harmony: all those qualities in which he chose to become, & to be, one with us. How much evidence, then, is there to convict us of the charge of being Christian? AMEN!